• Steve Kelley

Each week the Tribune scans the nation’s editorial cartoons for the handful it republishes in its Cartoon Gallery on Sunday. Last Sunday’s gallery consisted of five cartoons—by Dana Summers, Signe Wilkinson, Walt Handelsman, Steve Kelley, and Michael Ramirez—reacting to the revelation that the NSA is vacuuming up data whenever we talk on the telephone or browse the net. Some of the cartoons were drawn with a light hand and others weren’t, but not a single cartoonist defended the NSA, even to the extent of allowing that President Obama had a point when he said June 20 in San Jose that “you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.”

Why didn’t the Tribune publish one or two cartoons in that vein? Editorial page editor Bruce Dold tells me there weren’t any.

Yet the president made a pretty good point, and I bet a lot of these cartoonists don’t disagree with it. So why didn’t any of them say so? Let me propose an answer. A cartoon attacking Obama and the NSA for snooping on Americans practically draws itself. A cartoon defending the NSA surveillance as regrettable but necessary—how the hell do you draw that? A great editorial cartoon (not that any of the Tribune‘s was) is like a great epigram—it’s easier to admire than trust. Like the gleaming Bean in Millennium Park, it’s got seams but you can’t see them.